JPG 614 KB vs. TIFF 9.2 MB
It’s no coincidence that compact mobile scanning devices produce only JPG files. Whether you are using a Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner, a cell phone camera, smartphone app, wand scanner, or point-and-shoot digital , the resulting digital file is a JPG image file.
JPG files use compression to keep the overall file size small so that more images can fit on a storage card or hard drive. Small portable devices like smartphones, digital cameras, and portable scanners need this kind of high-capacity storage. The Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner is one of the most popular portable scanners with genealogists. It is completely battery-powered and saves scanned images to a small SD card, probably like the one in your digital camera. The included 4 MB SD card will hold about 1800 scans at 600 dpi resolution. That’s a lot of photos in a very small space.
JPG vs. TIFF
In the world of digital imaging, JPG is a hero because the file format can compress an image to save space.JPG is a flawed hero. How to save the day when archiving family photos.Click To Tweet
This compression makes it possible to email a photo, send a file for printing, or post pictures to Pinterest or Facebook. But every time a JPG file is Saved, a bit of the information within the file is lost. Hence, JPG files are known as lossy files. For the average photo that is opened a saved a few times, the image loss is probably undetectable to the average eye. But when a photo is opened, edited, and saved repeatedly, the image can become almost unusable.
It doesn’t matter if the JPG image originated in your digital camera, your wand scanner, or on your smartphone, the JPG file will degrade with repeated Saves. How many? I tried to correct a poor quality digital photo over several sessions with my photo editing software; after more than a dozen attempts the image became blotchy and filled with pixellated artifacts.
Professional archivists and photographers have always had more demanding goals than consumers. They want to preserve original materials, and recommend using TIFF loss-less file format for archiving images. Unfortunately, TIFF files can be huge, and even with the current low price of terabyte storage, TIFF files are impractical for sharing and storing on portable devices.
In the world of digital photography, the equivalent of TIFF format files is RAW, another very-large file that requires some amount of post-photograph developing. Most family photographers don’t need or want to learn to “shoot RAW.”
What Genealogists Want
Family historians want it all. We want digital files we can
- share with friends and family
- post on websites, social media and sharing sites
- print at our local big box store
- edit and use in digital photo albums and scrapbooks
- include in video slideshows and presentations
AND, We want to create these digital files
- without power cables
- without computer cables
- without a lot of fuss
- wherever we happen to be at the moment
My experience with that damaged photo taught me to use a simple workaround so I will never lose a JPG file again. Here’s what I learned:
The best advice we have today offers three easy solutions to preserving digital images for the future. The one you choose should depend on your time, funds, and personal goals.
TIFF is the archival gold-standard. Try to scan heirloom photos and documents in TIFF.
When you don’t have the option of TIFF, don’t despair, remember C-A-N:
C – Convert your JPG to TIFF and save all TIFF files in an Archive Folder.
Tip: Use the same filename for both JPG and TIFF files. The .tif extension will remind you that this large, loss-less file is your Digital Master Image. If you need to open it for editing, the TIFF version will not degrade when saved.
When you need a JPG version for email, editing, or another project, you will need to Export or Save As JPG.
A – Archive a JPG copy of the original file and save this new JPG in an Archive Folder.
Make it a Rule never to open the Archive JPG unless the original file is damaged or lost.
Tip: Use a common root filename for both files —
smith-john_1916_marriage.jpg (for the original file)
smith-john_1916_marriageDM.jpg (for the Digital Master copy in your Archive Folder)
N – Use a Nondestructive photo editor.
Some photo editing programs never modify the original file. You can ALWAYS revert back to the original, even after repeated cropping, touch-ups, and enhancing. Look for this feature in your current program; not all photo editors are non-destructive.
Go Ahead – Create JPG Images
All this means that you CAN have the convenience of mobile scanning and photography and the security of a digital archive. In fact, mobile devices can help you easily build your own family history digital archive.
When capturing images on your camera, scanner, or mobile phone, always use the highest quality and move the images to your computer hard drive for file renaming before backing up files to the Cloud and/or an external hard drive.
The FlipPal Mobile Scanner is the original fully-portable scanner that features a unique, gentle flat-bed operation for digitizing fragile family photos, documents and heirlooms. It’s really two scanners in one: a traditional glass flat-bed scanner with flip-down cover and a unique see-thru scanner for digitizing oversize and awkward items.
The see-thru feature is especially helpful for capturing images from photo albums and bound books. Remove the scanner cover, flip the scanner, and position the device to scan your item. The included Easy Stitch software will also “stitch” together multiple images of oversize items to create one file.
The FlipPal Mobile Scanner is a fun, portable, easy-to-use device. Understand the difference between JPG and TIFF and use the C-A-N method to safely add scanned family photos to your family history digital archive.
P.S.: I bought my Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner in 2010 and have used it for all kinds of digitizing projects. It’s not my only scanner, but it’s certainly the most fun to use! Yes, I am an Affiliate; I like it that much!
This post was first published August 6, 2013 and updated June 2017 to reflect new product information.